Planning your course
Planning and syllabus
Auf geht’s! is divided into 12 units of equal length and scope. Each unit is based around one thematic idea (such as unit 5 which addresses German regionalism and Landeskunde), introduces between 80-120 new vocabulary items, and presents a number of grammatical points that are relevant to the overall theme and are appropriate to the projected student proficiency at that unit.
Coverage will depend on the number of meeting times per week and the academic disposition of your students, as well as their willingness to work. Some universities use all 12 units of Auf geht’s! for a two semester (or three quarter) sequence, splitting them evenly between each academic term. Others use it for a three semester sequence, covering 4 units per semester. Still others have used the first 10 units for a year, simply omitting units 11-12 or picking out parts of 11 and 12 to use and omitting other parts from units 8-9.
Covering all of Auf geht’s! in one year is doable in a context where students are accustomed to hard work and working independently, but each school needs to find the proper balance between ‘coverage’ and student workload. Sometimes trying to cover too much is detrimental to student learning—we don’t want students opting out of German because it is more work than they feel it warrants. Because proficiency develops naturally by being engaged with the language in a meaningful way, each program needs to find the level of coverage that maximizes students learning and engagement, while simultaneously not discouraging them with a pace that does not permit them to acquire and learn what they are encountering.
Our main piece of advice for those starting out with Auf geht’s! is to be conservative and risk undershooting. If your students keep up well, you can add more coverage in the 2nd semester or simply supplement with your own tried and true materials.
How our software works
The online interactive program presents vocabulary, cultural learning, grammar and listening activities outside of class, preparing students for writing and classroom activities in class. This combination is much more effective for most students rather than a traditional, textbook-based curriculum.
Focused interactions: A variety of activities are used to stimulate multiple learning channels in a sustained and consistent manner.
Engaging content: Listening texts are drawn from hundreds of interviews with native German speakers. This real, unscripted and normal-speed language provides novice and intermediate learners with excellent training in listening comprehension, preparing students for real encounters in the target language.
Images and culture: Over 2000 custom-shot images are used throughout the online interactive program, providing a visual grounding for the cultural emphasis of the course.
What students do
The normal workflow for students outside of class is a two-step process of interactive computer work and work with the Lernbuch text.
Interactive: The interactive web program presents and helps students practice the vocabulary for each Thema. Vocabulary lists can be printed out from the website or printed and distributed by instructors. Interactive work generally includes vocabulary, cultural learning, listening practice (native German interviews addressing the topics of the Thema), some reading, and grammar presentation and practice.
Lernbuch: After preparing with the software, students prepare work in the Lernbuch for class. The Lernbuch includes four types of activities:
1) Class activities (that students generally do not prepare before class)
2) Short-writing activities that students do prepare before class and form the basis for class speaking tasks.
3) Reading activities with practice tasks.
4) Model-based writing assignments.
Because the short writing assignments are the basis for class work, it is important that students complete them before class. Writing boxes in the text are clearly visible and it is simple for instructors to verify quickly that students have done their preparation work. This helps promote a class dynamic where students come prepared.
For programs that wish to emphasize grammatical structures more, there is a whole PDF text of grammar handouts that can also be completed either in class (collaboratively) or outside of class as homework.
Assessment and grading
Current instructors have access to editable tests developed at UNC Chapel Hill for their Auf geht’s! and Weiter geht’s!programs. These can serve as the core of your assessments or as an inspiration for assessments that you tailor to your program.
Student activity scores are available to instructors by logging into the website and going to the Progress Report area. Alternatively, students can generate a PDF Transcript of their activity scores for each Thema and submit to instructors digitally (email or upload to LMS) or print out and turn in. We recommend that instructors look these over but mainly check that they are completed with an acceptable level of detail and effort, perhaps providing short personal feedback on particularly thoughtful free-response answers. Likewise, we recommend that instructors periodically examine student Lernbuch activities (such as during unit tests) to keep students accountable on completing their work regularly. We do not advise collecting Lernbücher (unlike traditional work books) because they are inconvenient to transport in bulk and because students need them to prepare for class. Optional grammar worksheets can also be assessed – we provide instructors with keys that can be distributed to students before or after assignments are completed, at your discretion.
We advise focusing your time as an instructor on the free-writing activities, where students are generally communicating about their lives and opinions. That is probably the most strategic way to invest precious instructor time giving feedback.
Because they are well-prepared, students are more confident to speak together in German in class. Our in-class activities in the Auf geht’s! Lernbuch are designed not just to practice structures and vocabulary under study, but also to be real and meaningful communication and sharing among students and teachers. Each class exercise is designed to be intercultural (focusing on comparisons), interpersonal (asking about the students’s lives, not those of cartoon figures) or entertaining (fun and gamelike).
Auf geht’s! promotes writing development through two main elements: short answer responses in the text in preparation for class work and short essay writing, generally 3-4 times per unit. Writing tasks are model based: students receive either a list of possible elements to borrow from or larger segments of writing that they can use to scaffold their own writing. This assistance at the text level (rather than just lexical or grammatical hints) allows students to write longer and more understandable texts at an earlier stage in their linguistic development. This trains students to be on the lookout for chunks of language that they can appropriate and rework for their own communicative needs – an important skill for continued language learning.
Writing at the beginning level is often ignored because students are so “bad” at it. Without significant scaffolding, students are not capable of writing multiple, cogent paragraphs of text. Model-based writing helps students actually write well without the massive amount of errors and Google-Translating that generally accompany free writing at this level otherwise.
Auf geht’s! contains numerous reading texts taken from our extensive native speaker interviews or written specifically to present key cultural information. Post-reading tasks focus on interpretation and extension rather than discrete point recall tasks. This promotes more holistic reading of the texts and improves the chances that students will learn and react to actual content rather than parsing sentences lexically and grammatically without creating any text-level meaning. Vocabulary lists are keyed to reading texts to promote more fluent reading—glossing is kept to a minimum to not unnecessarily break reading flow.
Students first encounter grammatical explanations and practice in the interactive web program, which contains numerous tutorials and self-grading practice activities. This is fully sufficient for a communicative-based classroom. For schools that wish to focus on more explicit grammar work, there is an additional free set of PDF explanations and worksheets, equal in scope to an entire workbook. Grammar items are linked to specific units and Themen and follow a scope and sequence that respects the natural acquisition process. Worksheets follow a progression of activities that flow from recognition to comprehension to scaffolded production to free production. When students are trained to look back at models for their free production in the worksheets themselves (a new approach for most), they begin using these grammatical structures for their own communication, increasing the likelihood that they will learn and perhaps even acquire these new structures.
Ironically, one of the key features of our curriculum is also the least understood—our interviews and photographs meticulously gathered over the last ten years. Drawing from the field-research traditions of sociology, anthropology and journalism, we invoke the power of narrative to engage students and to provide both a window into German speaking culture and a mirror to the student’s own world. The goal is not to teach them “everything about German culture”, but instead to use their interactions with German culture to create life-long intercultural learners attuned to cultural differences and accustomed to ambiguity and situa- tions where they don’t understand everything.
A second method we use to move students beyond themselves is the power of images. Thousands of photographs reinforce the idea in the student that “something here is a little different.” Edward Hall noted: “The paradox of culture is that language, the system most frequently used to describe culture, is by nature poorly adapted to this difficult task.”
Our authentic materials are not native to native, but native to non-native communication. We achieve this by using carefully-designed interview questions administered by non-native speakers to elicit natural, authen- tic sympathetic responses aimed at non-natives. This spirit pervades tasks and materials throughout the course.
Lexical learning is the most important language task for beginning students, and the Auf geht’s! program focuses extensively on vocabulary learning through over a dozen different activity types in the interactive computer work. Students are presented with approximately 1500 words and phrases to learn in the Auf geht’s! course. Lexical items were chosen based on their frequency in the reading texts, their relevance to the thematic topics addressed (for use in class discussions), and their overall frequency in German. Concrete nouns and adjectives appear much more commonly in the first units of Auf geht’s!, while verbs and abstract nouns predominate later in the courses after students have achieved basic proficiency.
After you adopt
Each AG Instructor’s Edition contains additional classroom activities, ideas for reviewing students’ work from the interactive, as well as suggestions for keeping intercultural issues in the foreground during class. This Instructor’s Edition is ideal for new teachers as well as teachers new to AG (including adjuncts and TAs), offering a great deal of advice for starting out.
In order to give instructors a great deal of flexibility both in focus as well as in workload, each teacher using Auf geht’s! has access to hundreds of pages of handouts designed for use in class and keyed to the Lernbuch and interactive.
Handouts are distributed in .pdf format and can be copied before class or distributed electronically before class. Simple editable versions of the handouts are being considered as well if instructor demand warrants it.
This richness of additional materials allows instructors to work their classes harder and/or focus on particular skills and learning without requiring a 1,200 page textbook.
Instructors can also download vocab PDFs, materials submitted by other instructors using AG, sample tests, our complete grammar sequence and more.
Adopting institutions receive dozens of assessment modules, particularly dealing with assessing cultural learning. These can be used as quizzes or tests, and can be easily modified.
Managing student expectations
Auf geht’s! differs from traditional textbooks in a number of ways: a very heavy focus on culture, a more spaced sequence of grammatical topics, a use of authentic audio and written texts, and intentionally personal, interpersonal, and intercultural direction of class speaking activities. Many students welcome this approach and our experience is that more students tend to continue to 2nd-year German when learning with Auf geht’s! in the first year.
It is still a good idea to explain to students the usefulness of a strong focus on culture and explain that it is intentional that this is not a grammar-driven course or syllabus. SLA research fully supports this, but many students who have had language courses in high school or other colleges are accustomed to a traditional approach. This includes students who are more analytic thinkers and have succeeded using traditional textbooks. We recommend taking time periodically to explain why students are listening to authentic audio, which is arguably more difficult but trains students in real world useful abilities, and why they are writing so much. By pro-actively managing student expectations, you can smooth the transition from more traditional instruction to a proficiency and culture-based approach that fits the Auf geht’s!materials.